Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90. And at 78, five-time chief minister and state Congress president Virbhadra Singh lives up to adage very well.
Young at heart and spirit, Virbhadra Singh has been visiting all the corners of the state, thundering (his voice often betrays his age), exhorting and inspiring his fellow workers to ensure a thumping victory for the party. His daily routine stretches late into the night, but he is a bundle of high energy for what is being termed by the opposition as his last major electoral campaign for the state assembly. It is not merely "prestige and honour" which is at stake, the political future of his son and to some extent his wife is also weighing heavy on his mind this time, though he does not talk about them.
It's 10:30 in the morning. A group of Congress supporters in one of the farthest towns Indora of Kangra district on the Himachal-Punjab border is eagerly waiting for their Raja Sahib to land. They are full of praise for the high energy and hectic schedule of their leader, as after addressing the workers here, Virbhadra would fly to Una for Congress president Sonia Gandhi's rally.
The sound of Virbhadra's chopper is enough to charge them up and slogans like "Raja Nahi Fakir Hai, Himachal Ki Takdir hai" fill the air. The door opens and out steps the lone Congress warrior dressed in black suit and trademark green-coloured Himachali cap along with party affairs incharge Birender Singh. After exchanging greetings with the supporters, he gets into a waiting white-coloured SUV to leave for the venue.
As Virbhadra gets out of his SUV at the rally venue, people shower him with garlands. Unlike his opponents, who have focused their election campaign on targeting him, Virbhadra sticks to the development agenda. "Indora was nothing 25 years ago and it was Congress that gave it the identity of a town and created administrative infrastructure here," he reminds voters. "BJP has failed to do anything, for the state as well as the area. They only know how to take credit for the work done by others. If they did focus on development of the area, why are the roads here in a bad condition? Vote us back to power and see what development is," says Virbhadra. To this, the crowd roars "Raja Virbhadra Singh Zindabad".
This rally is over and as Virbhadra leaves the venue with folded hands, some supporters touch his feet while others just bow before him. Virbhadra immediately leaves for the helipad, to fly to Una where party president Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to hold a rally.
Five pm and it's the turn of Dharamsala Congress candidate Sudhir Sharma to receive Virbhadra at Police Grounds. It's not long before his chopper arrives and Virbhadra is set for the 10-minute drive to the rally venue. Singh enquires from Sharma about the progress of the party campaign, to which Sharma says it has picked up. Virbhadra proudly tells him about Una, where a new entrant was giving a tough fight to the state BJP president Satpal Satti.
It is pitch dark as Virbhadra arrives at the venue and addressing the gathering here, he had them in splits when he said that the BJP government had sold the costly land of Himachal to outsiders and if voted to power, Congress would expand the Nahan jail in Sirmour and Kanda jail in Shimla, as many bigwigs will be lodged there.
Virbhadra's last address for the day is at Shamnagar in Dharamsala town, where he exhorts people to choose development and vote for the Congress candidate. Dinner is organised at a local leader's house, but before that Virbhadra addresses a small press conference. A quick dinner later, he retires for the day at the Dharamsala Circuit House.
This being his last political battle, Virbhadra is leaving no stone unturned and working hard to ensure Congress' win. December 20 results will tell whether his hard work pays dividend or not.